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Hillsborough wary of mall plan

Hillsborough County commissioners voted to urge state officials Tuesday to closely examine the environmental impacts of a shopping mall proposed for Interstate 75 in Land O'Lakes.

But none of the commissioners said Hillsborough should oppose the Pasco County project outright, and several said they didn't want to.

"I don't think that's our job," commission Chairman Jim Norman said.

Cypress Creek Town Center, plus a package of related development, is proposed for the western flank of I-75 and State Road 56 in southern Pasco. It has been approved by the Pasco County Commission and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. Because of its 1.3-million-square-foot size, the mall also is under review by Florida's growth management agency, the Department of Community Affairs.

County Commissioner Kathy Castor raised the issue based on the mall's location at Cypress Creek, which forms the headwaters of the Hillsborough River and is near several regional well fields.

Similarly, neighbors of the site have hired a lawyer to appeal Pasco's decision to Circuit Court on environmental grounds. Denise Layne, representing the Lutz Civic Association and the Tampa area chapter of the Sierra Club, told the Hillsborough commission Tuesday that several important environmental studies of the watershed have not been completed.

But Biff Craine, an attorney for the mall developers, told the commission that water flowing into Cypress Creek will be cleaner after the mall is built than it is today, thanks to planned buffers and treatment facilities.

County staffers noted that the city of Tampa, which draws its drinking water from the Hillsborough River, accepted the mall's environmental plans.

The mall's developers hope for a grand opening in October 2007 on the south side of SR 56. On the north side, the mall is to be accompanied by another 600,000 square feet of stores, plus 120,000 square feet of offices, 230 apartments and a hotel.

Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or